T.A. Dugger eighth-graders wade in Watauga River to learn about history

Those hiking the trails at Sycamore Shoals State Park Wednesday morning may have heard the small roar of middle school students coming from the river. The river was cold and the banks were muddy and slippery from all the people walking in and out of the river, but for the students, they were having the time of their lives participating in a school tradition that has lasted for years.

Eighth-grade students from T.A. Dugger Jr. High waded in the Watauga River Wednesday morning in a reenactment of the hike that led to victory in the American Revolution.

Social Studies teacher Kristin Waite said this is an event eighth-grade students look forward to every year.

“It is a chance to be out of the classroom,” Waite said. “We take great pride in doing this.”

Wading through the river is but one part of a hike through a section of the Overmountain Victory Trail.

“It teaches why Sycamore Shoals is here and the role their ancestors played in the Revolutionary War,” she said.

Reenacting history is not the only benefit of attending the hike, however. She said the original settlers of the region settled despite being told not to. For many of the students, she said learning this history gives them the confidence to carve out a life for themselves.

Originally, the hike would take place in the fall semester, around October, but a combination of colder weather last year and a delay from the Tennessee Valley Authority to stop production of the river meant they were unable to do the hike as planned.

“We made it a point to do the hike before they could graduate,” Waite said.

The hike is significant for T.A. Dugger students as, unlike the standard Washington D.C. trip, this is a landmark event every single student can attend. Waite said no one at the school could remember when this tradition even started. For students and faculty alike, this has been a staple of the junior high school’s experience for many years.

“This is something every student can attend,” Waite said. “We want them to take that eighth-grade piece with them.”

As a teacher, Waite said she loves the chance to interact with her students outside a classroom setting.

“This is a chance to get to know them,” she said.

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